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Hurricane Ophelia grows to Category 3

By the CNN Wire Staff
October 1, 2011 -- Updated 0205 GMT (1005 HKT)
STORY HIGHLIGHTS
  • NEW: Ophelia now has maximum sustained winds of 120 mph
  • NEW: It is set to hit portions of Bermuda late Saturday, hurricane center predicts
  • Tropical Storm Philippe, meanwhile, is getting stronger in the eastern Atlantic

(CNN) -- Hurricane Ophelia got even more powerful Friday night as it churned across the Atlantic toward Bermuda, the National Hurricane Center reported.

A tropical storm watch was in effect for that mid-Atlantic island, but Ophelia's increasingly northerly path suggests it won't directly threaten the coastal United States.

The system was disorganized and seemed to be weakening last week. But it has gained steam in recent days and earlier Friday was upgraded to a Category 3 hurricane.

According to the center's 8 p.m. update, Ophelia had maximum sustained winds of 120 mph, which is 5 mph stronger than those recorded three hours earlier. Its center was located 480 miles south-southeast of Bermuda.

Ophelia has also gotten faster, increasing in speed 4 mph as it heads north at around 16 mph. With an expected turn more to the north-northeast, the storm is expected to strike the eastern part of Bermuda late Saturday, reports the hurricane center.

The Miami-based forecasters said that there could be fluctuations in Ophelia's intensity over the next 12 to 24 hours, followed by a gradual weakening.

Hurricane-force winds extended about 30 miles from the storm's eye, center said. Tropical storm-force winds, which are winds between 39 mph and 73 mph, have been recorded 175 miles away.

Meanwhile, Tropical Storm Philippe has strengthened somewhat as it spins farther east in the Atlantic, with its eye some 1,100 miles east-northeast of the Leeward Islands as of 5 p.m. Friday.

As of that update, its sustained winds were 50 mph, which is slightly stronger than the previous update.

The hurricane center predicted "some weakening" over the next 48 hours, during which it was set to turn more toward the west-northwest.

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